Battle of the books

Premiering in 2002, Canada Reads has been a monumental aspect of Canadian culture for over 20 years.

A radio show streamed by the CBC, it’s an opportunity for Canadian authors to gain the recognition and for audiences to tune into a reality gameshow centered around finding a Canadian book that the country should read together. 

Every year, five high profile Canadians bring forward a book they feel all Canadians should read. Past panelists who have appeared on the show include astronauts, musicians, comedians and activists. Over the course of four days, debates are held and broadcasted for listeners across the country. At the conclusion of the day, contestants vote out one book until only the winner remains. 

As an opportunity to highlight books that panelists are passionate about, Canada Reads centers complicated social issues facing the country. An opportunity for intelligent debate and compassionate conversations, Canada Reads gives Canadian books and authors a platform to reach the country’s readers. 

An important part of Canada Reads is diversity both in book topics and in panelists – each participant brings a unique perspective to debates. In recent years, Canada Reads has had a theme for panelists to engage with. Hosted by Canadian comedian Ali Hassan, the theme of Canada Reads last year was “one book to shift your perspective”. 

The winner of Canada Reads 2023 was “Ducks” by Kate Beaton, championed by Jeopardy superstar Mattea Roach. “Ducks” is a graphic novel memoir following Beaton’s personal experiences and challenges during her time working in the Albertan oil sands.  

Canada Reads has helped me expand my appreciation for Canadian literature. One of the best books I’ve read, “A Complicated Kindness” by Miriam Toews, gained notoriety as a result of the competition in 2006., Defended by long-time Canadian musician John K. Samson, it’s a coming-of-age story set in an isolated Manitoban Mennonite community. I appreciated the story for the same reason I love Canada Reads – it is an opportunity to experience Canada from a different perspective. 

From Mar. 4 to 7, Canada Reads 2024 will be available on CBC TV, CBC Radio and CBC Books. This year, the theme is “one book to carry us forward”. Hosted by Ali Hassan, the champions and their books have already been selected and can be found online. 

While I can’t tell you today who will win in Canada’s favourite battle of the books, I can promise an engaging debate, fresh perspectives on what it means to be Canadian and the discovery of some great new books to add to your reading list this year. 

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